Discuss the ideal knowledge management environment

In today’s increasing competitive environment and the new economy of brick and click enterprises, knowledge management (KM) can be considered as a business integration discipline which endeavours, ‘to improve the performance of individuals and organisations by maintaining and leveraging the present and future value of knowledge assets’ (Newman, B. , ; Conrad, K. W. , 1999, p. 2). While people have criticised information and knowledge management as the same thing, knowledge management is not a new practice but rather the interpretations of knowledge management and its frameworks have incessantly changed.

Successful brick and click enterprises are those which frequently management knowledge and recognises knowledge as a source and integration tool to driving the growth and sustainability of business disciplines, and hence acknowledges the high uncertainties of change ‘between the input resources and the business performance outcomes, and, the gaps between the value these enterprises create and the value demanded by changing market conditions, consumer preferences, competitive offerings, changing business models, and, industry structures’ (Malhorta, Y. 2004).

However, the knowledge creation process does not necessarily lead to business improvements or value creation (Chen, C. J. , ; Huang, J. W. , 2007), but more on how knowledge is handled, circulated and applied within a virtual environment, enabling knowledge flows between the individual and its organisational culture.

Therefore, it is the purpose of this essay to discuss the ideal environment, in which value can only be created when knowledge is dispersed and adequately applied where needed by use of knowledge management methods; furthermore it will acknowledge that a ‘well-developed knowledge management system would stimulate the creativity of each employee by providing exactly the knowledge that employee needs to be optimally creative’ (Finneran, T. Online, No Date).

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In the new maturing economy the management of knowledge is a critical factor for the success and competitive advantage of any organisation; as is the generating of new knowledge to fulfil organisational objectives and to achieve greater business optimisation. According to Resnick, L. M. , (2004, p. 87), as contemporary organisations evolve to a more virtual structure, they lose and gain relationships among employees, managers, customers and suppliers on an irregular basics; and without practical management, the knowledge created through these relationships will be lost. Therefore, assembling an ‘effective knowledge management will enable organisations to protect themselves from the losses experienced when employees and partners terminate their relationship with the company’ (Resnick, L. M. , 2004, p. 288).

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While experts have argued that information and/or knowledge management practices is not only about the administration of information, but rather entails management requirements for knowledge management systems to be integrated to all aspects of the virtual environment; a well-constructed knowledge management system will impede the production and collaboration of creativity across all organisational subunits. Finneran, T. (Online, No date) describes knowledge management in a nut shell where ‘Knowledge Management envisions getting the Right Information within the Right Context to the Right Person at the Right Time for the Right Business Purpose’. This view suggests the ideal environment in which individuals or group knowledge should be effectively communicated across all organisational divisions in ways which directly impact on business performance.

Essentially, the ideal knowledge management environment will cultivate and take advantage of existing and new knowledge through the implementation and combination of KM methodologies, best practices, frameworks, and technologies that will ultimately stimulate the development of creativity and innovative ideas of human beings. In essence, the basic concept of knowledge management is about sharing knowledge to leverage existing knowledge, stimulate innovation and to achieve operational effectiveness.

As KM matures many companies will start to look at KM with a more holistic approach, but ‘research shows that although many companies have begun to develop some sort of knowledge management capabilities, very few (6%) have implemented knowledge management programs on an enterprise-wide scale’ (Kidwell, J. J. , Vander Linde, K. M. , ; Johnson, S. L. , 2000, p. 30).

The conception on KM best practises should not primarily focus on one single type of initiative for competitive advantage, but instead centre around building on the core business capabilities and processes around knowledge sharing. For instance, knowledge sharing can be achieved through the creation of a knowledge community aimed to capture knowledge from individuals and store in teams and the organisation; taking an institutional global approach in facilitating knowledge as needed and in breaking down the cultural barriers between organisation and its customers.

Finneran, T. , (Online, No Date) suggest that ‘practitioners of Knowledge Management have found that a critical success factor in the implementation of knowledge management is the creation of a cultural environment that encourages the sharing of information’. Knowledge communities can be viewed as ‘Global communities of interest’ which stimulates virtual and global interactions through common categories of interest, which are not bounded and tied up to by physical and organisational impediments.

Several KM best practices and trends have emerged over the last few years and are forecasted to shape the way knowledge is to be managed. It includes the materialisation of technology solutions, the union of knowledge management with e-business, movement from limited KM projects to enterprise-wide project and increasing the use of KM to enhance innovation and of tactic knowledge rather than explicit knowledge. (Kidwell, J. J. , Vander Linde, K. M. , ; Johnson, S. L. , 2000, p. 29).

Generally, knowledge can be very difficult to codify and can also be very highly subjective. Two type of knowledge which is recognised in KM are explicit and tactic, and when applied productively within an organisation it can help to increase competitive advantage through innovation and knowledge sharing. Ideally, tactic knowledge would better guide actions and make better informed decisions based on the ability utilise on perception, hands-on skills, experiences, know-hows, insights and so on.

Tactic knowledge is personal, difficult to formalise, communicate and transfer; ultimately it is knowledge that is embedded within people in an organisation. Seonghee, K. , (1999) suggests that KM best practices draw on tactic knowledge for creativity and ‘ensures tasks effectiveness – that the right things are being done so that work unit could attain its objectives. It also provides for a kind of creative robustness — intuition and heuristic can often tackle tough problems that would otherwise be difficult to solve’.

Functionally, knowledge management frameworks offer a myriad of possibilities for organisations and help to build the integrity of knowledge dispersal and application within an organisation, providing the countless benefits in applying a KM framework which builds on the concept of knowledge management in specifics to the organisational environment, its business processes and activities.

With the paradigm shift and phenomenon of the need and understanding of knowledge management over the last several years, many experts have proposed a number of approaches to KM frameworks, each of which have only addressed certain aspects of knowledge management. Holsapple, C. W. , and Joshi, K. D. , (1999, p. ) broadly classifies KM frameworks into two categories; descriptive frameworks which attempts to characterise the nature of the KM phenomena with additional sub categories including board and specific frameworks to describe the whole of the KM phenomena, and prescriptive frameworks stipulates the methodologies for performing knowledge management.

For instances, the ‘Core Capabilities and Knowledge Building’ framework initiated by Leonard-Barton, D. (1995), and as described in Holsapple, C. W. , and Joshi, K. D. , (1999, p. 2) paper, focuses on the profundity in the characterisation of the KM phenomenon and therefore categorising it as a board framework. This KM framework introduced by Leonard-Barton (1995), encompasses four knowledge building activities that encircle the four core capabilities, which Leonard-Barton asserts is central to a knowledge based organisation (KBO).

The four knowledge building activities aimed at knowledge creation and diffusion are acknowledged in the framework as: shared and creative problem solving, implementing and integrating new methodologies and tools, experimenting and prototyping, and importing and absorbing technologies from outside of the firm’s knowledge.

In addition, Leonard-Barton expresses that these four knowledge building activities are influenced by the core capabilities identified in the framework as being: the physical systems such as databases, employee knowledge and skills, managerial systems such as rewards and incentives systems, and the organisational values and norms (Holsapple, C. W. , & Joshi, K. D. , 1999, p. 2). This framework is used to better understand knowledge management and its characteristics of the implication in a KBO environment.

Thus, the dynamic perspective on KM frameworks does not end with knowledge as a final solution, but instead emphasises on the continuous growth, renewal, exchange and communication processes. Hence KM frameworks can offer a structure, ‘for balancing the myriad of technologies and approaches that provide value, tying them together into a seamless whole. It helps analysts and designers better address the interests of stakeholders across interrelated knowledge flows and, by doing so, better enables individuals, systems and organisations to exhibit truly intelligent behavior in multiple contexts’ (Newman, B. & Conrad, K. W. , 1999, p. 2). ‘Organisations are already realising that it does no good to have robust technology solutions if the existing culture prevents knowledge sharing, and conversely that it does little good to have pockets of robust knowledge sharing without some technological means of making knowledge widely accessible’ (Kidwell, J. J. , Vander Linde, K. M. , & Johnson, S. L. , 2000, p. 30). Therefore, it should not be assumed that technology is the enabler of KM, but should be perceived as a vehicle for driving the concept of ‘knowledge diffusion’ in a KM environment.

Nowadays, the outlook of promising technological tools for KM can help to support and improve the process of knowledge transfer. Technological tools such as, search engines, storage media, groupware, web-based platforms, portals, emails and basic collaborative tools can help to facilitate and assist individuals and groups in the creation, retention and the diffusion of knowledge. Increasingly, the use of portals is being implemented in many corporate environments for the convenient storage of meta-data, and integration of collaborative tools, emails, into one application.

Kidwell, J. J. , Vander Linde, K. M. , & Johnson, S. L. , (2000, p. 30) also makes an interesting statement which suggests ‘As organizations share their lessons learned about implementing knowledge management programs, some are discovering the interdependent nature of KM capabilities. They are finding that a balanced portfolio of knowledge management initiatives yields the best results and that excelling at technology-related capabilities does not preclude excelling at people- or process-related capabilities’.

Additionally, as more brick and click enterprises grow, the harder it becomes to determine what technological tools, KM methods, and best practices are to be utilised in determining the needs of individuals, groups and the organisational culture, but ‘once sound strategies based on these essential principles are articulated, the requisite technologies are chosen, and information platforms and technology architectures are built accordingly’, though it may sound simple it can not always guarantee the successful deployment of a KM system (Riley, T. B. , 2003, p. 4).

In a learning environment KM should not be based on a technocentric approach to creating the ideal KM environment; but instead use technology as a facilitator to simulate knowledge sharing and creativity for the development of innovation. The virtual enterprise should aspire to revolutionise itself into a knowledge-based environment which continually should aim to create, acquire and transfer knowledge to the right person when and where required. In creating the ideal KM environment there are many tools, methods, frameworks, and techniques which can be applied in stimulating the creativity of each employee.

However, the assortments of KM methodologies which can be found through examples of other virtual organisations and case studies, does not necessarily lead to business improvements or value creation when applied to one’s own virtual enterprise; but more on how knowledge created is disseminated and applied across the organisational culture, between individuals and teams. In summary, KM is fast becoming a chief factor for organisations in determining their competitive advantage, and without a well-developed KM system or knowledge creation process will render the organisation from succeeding.

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